For the multitudes of American military veterans returning from the world’s battlefields with disabling war wounds, re-adapting to civilian life can be a daunting challenge. Among the estimated 4.9 million veterans with service-connected disabilities, obtaining vital services, such as supportive care and accessible housing, presents a formidable obstacle for many of them. Not all injuries are clearly visible, especially when the diagnosis involves conditions such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), further complicating recovery and treatment options. For these veterans struggling with post-service disabilities, aggravating factors include unemployment, homelessness, and other impacts to health and quality of life.
Veterans’ support and advocacy groups around the country continue their efforts to mitigate these situations faced by our warfighters, and in the New York City area, a new day is dawning in the Jamaica section of Queens, as the NAAM House Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to linking chronically ill disabled veterans with health care, housing and support services, gears up for its May 3 (invite-only) Grand Opening of a single-family home. After the 9:30 AM ribbon-cutting ceremony, in this safe space, veterans can avail themselves of job training, placement and counseling, in partnership with agencies like Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and support from sister groups, including My Brother’s House, which houses undomiciled veterans around the country.
Lois-Lachel Migkins, NAAM’s founder and CEO, is excited about her organization’s new venture. “Veterans who have service-connected disabilities often don’t get the help they need to survive after they leave the service,” she observes. “We are trying to rectify that through the work NAAM does every day.” An Iraq War veteran, who was medically retired from the Army, Migkins understands the plight of her siblings-in-arms, through firsthand lived experience. “I struggle with chronic illness myself, so I know what [other disabled veterans] are going through. Our new house will be a big step towards getting other veterans the resources that can uplift and enrich their lives.”
Not enough is done to prepare the troops for the adjustment back to the civilian world by the military, Migkins notes, especially if living with a disability will be part of the equation. “When soldiers or sailors are approaching their ETS date, little is done in the way of reintegration into society.” This can exacerbate other issues for veterans, including emotional upheavals and behavioral issues. “In my own transition to civilian life, I myself went through changes that were difficult for my family and friends to handle,” Migkins recalls. Through personal determination, Migkins, who now also works for the Veterans’ Affairs department (VA) became an advocate, leading her to create the NAAM House Initiative. Based on Staten Island, the organization continues its work of assisting veterans in dealing with long-term illnesses or injuries sustained while keeping us all living in freedom. You can follow NAAM House on Facebook to keep up to date with the charity, as our veterans discover a new place to call home in just a couple of weeks!